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Slipped disc - What treatments work for a slipped disc?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

A slipped disc can be very painful. It means one of the discs in your spine has been damaged and may be pressing on a nerve.

The good news is that a slipped disc generally gets better on its own, usually within about six weeks.[1]

Here we look at treatments for back pain and sciatica caused by a slipped disc in the lower part of your back.

Key points about treating pain caused by a slipped disc

  • Staying active is probably better for you than lying in bed for a long time, but researchers don't know for certain.

  • Having your spine manipulated by a trained therapist can help treat pain caused by a slipped disc.

  • Taking painkillers or getting painkilling injections may help for a short time.

  • Surgery can repair the damaged disc, but it's worth waiting a while, as it will probably get better on its own.

Treatments for a slipped disc

We've divided the treatments for slipped disc into three categories: non-drug treatments, drug treatments, and surgery.

For help deciding what treatment is best for you, see How to use research to support your treatment decisions.

  • Non-drug treatments for slipped disc: There are many different things you can try that do not involve taking drugs or having surgery. They include having your spine manipulated, acupuncture, and following a programme of exercise. More...

  • Drug treatments for slipped disc: These treatments include painkillers, muscle relaxants, and steroid injections. More...

  • Surgery for slipped disc: There are many different ways to repair a slipped disc with surgery. Doctors can do operations using a microscope or laser. And they can make a small cut rather than making a large cut. More...

Non-drug treatments for slipped disc

A slipped disc usually gets better on its own in about six weeks. But you may want to try some non-drug treatments to make you more comfortable.

Key points about non-drug treatments for slipped disc

  • Staying active is probably better for you than lying in bed for a long time, but researchers don't know for certain.

  • Having your spine manipulated by a trained therapist can help treat pain caused by a slipped disc.

  • Many other non-drug treatments have been tried for low back pain. These include acupuncture, heat, ice, and massage. But there's very little research to show whether or not they work for slipped disc.

  • Traction, which is used to gently stretch the spine, is unlikely to help if you've got a slipped disc.

Which non-drug treatments work best for slipped disc? We've looked at the best research and given a rating for each treatment according to how well it works.

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Last Updated: January 25, 2011
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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